Why Citing Sources is Important

The purpose of this guide is to explain to students the importance of documenting works of other people consistently and to provide insights into the best practice of source citation.

read more

Citing sources used in a paper is a requirement of academic writing applied by almost all educational or scientific institutions. Therefore, it is necessary for students to understand why they need to cite the resources they use, as well as how to do so correctly. In general, citations are references to the sources that have been examined and utilized in producing a paper.

Why do we cite sources

Citing sources is a method that enables students to acknowledge and use the ideas of other authors in their work. It is also a way for the reader to quickly identify and locate sources of materials referenced by the writer, to familiarize themselves with these studies, and to verify the accuracy of the data provided. Moreover, citing works allows students to demonstrate the scope and depth of their own research by quoting the available publications on the topic and revealing the existing body of literature.

The main reasons for citing the works of other people are as follows:

  • This is the main method of avoiding situations where a student might be accused of plagiarizing someone else’s thoughts or ideas.
  • Correctly cited sources allow the audience to locate any literature used in the paper. The reader will not only form a positive opinion regarding the reliability of the work but will also get a chance to enrich their knowledge of the theme by being able to check other available literature.
  • Proper referencing implies that the student has carried out research on the existing body of knowledge as applied to their topic. It also shows that they are capable of engaging in a discussion using a critical approach, which enhances the overall impression of their work.
  • The analysis of the available literature ensures that the researcher can offer a context to the discussion, as well as explicate why they have an alternative viewpoint. In addition, it provides an opportunity to prove that there is a gap in the way the academic community comprehends the issue under analysis. Citing sources is one of the key ways in which to establish the credibility of the researcher.
  • By referencing someone else’s ideas, students and researchers secure their reputation. This is particularly applicable to situations when the data provided in the cited work turn out to be irrelevant or incorrect.
  • In future roles, as professional researchers, students will be able to cite the intellectual property of other investigators correctly without discrediting their own reputation, while also eliminating the possibility of legal action initiated due to plagiarism.

What is the Difference between Citation and Reference?

The fundamental difference between a citation and a reference is that a citation is a specific resource that the student has discussed in the body of the paper and is indicated by an in-text citation. References, on the other hand, are placed at the end of the document and provide full publication details for the in-text citations. References are also listed in alphabetical order in the majority of cases.

How to Cite Sources

Citing works used in a paper is a method which allows students to delineate their own creative ideas from those proposed by other people and to specify the source from which the particular data has come from. It is important to note that there are different citation styles, each of which with their own peculiarities. It is always necessary to consult the instructor or mentor to know which particular citation style should be used and it is essential to be consistent in formatting throughout the whole text. Notably, each style has its own rules for reference entries and in-text citations (see Table 1). All sources mentioned in the reference list should always be cited in the body of the paper. Some of the main citation styles are:

  • American Psychological Association (APA)
  • Modern Language Association (MLA)
  • Harvard
  • Chicago
  • Turabian
Citation StyleExample

Sepetys, R. (2017). Salt to the sea. New York, NY: Philomel Books.

In-text citation: (Sepetys, 2017)

Sepetys, Ruta. Salt to the Sea. Philomel Books, 2017.

In-text citation: (Sepetys 12)
HarvardSepetys, R 2017, Salt to the sea, Philomel Books, New York, NY.
In-text citation: (Sepetys 2017)

Table 1. Three Examples of Different Citation Styles

Check out this link to find a variety of guides and tools for academic referencing. Access to these resources is completely free so that students can easily boost their academic performance.

Referencing Works of Other People

Students should always reference works of other people, but this does not imply that their own paper lacks originality. If researchers fail to cite any literature it will appear that they have not conducted research on the topic and have not analyzed the literature available to them, leading to questions regarding the reliability of any conclusions made. Citing sources is the best way to avoid accusations of plagiarism and to show that the student is aware of previous research in the given field.

Ideas Already Presented by Another Researcher

Notably, if a student discovers that the idea they have is already mentioned by someone else, they must reference the other author’s work. In the body of the paper, they may acknowledge that some research supports their idea, which will additionally stress the importance of the discussion. However, it is of paramount importance to explicate the way their new research expands or updates the body of existing knowledge.

Adapted Version of Someone Else’s Work

If a learner decides to offer an adapted version of someone else’s work in their paper, they should still reference the original writing. Citation requirements are applicable not only to direct quotes but also to ideas and data that have been developed by other people. Therefore, students should stress that the information they provide is adapted from some specific source and include this work in the reference list.

Similar Information Discussed in Several Sources

It should be mentioned that some topics are studied more exhaustively than others, which implies that several authors might propose similar ideas. In that case, learners may provide the data they have found, or that they consider crucial, and indicate that this information is supported by many researchers (their names should be listed in the body of the paper). Importantly, separate reference entries should be provided for each work cited.

Older Published Sources

The date of publication does not change the fact that a source should be cited; all resources should be referenced when the ideas from them have been used in a paper. However, it is necessary to try to use as up-to-date literature as possible to provide the most relevant and reliable information in the area. When applicable, students should cite the revised versions of books and other publications.


Thus, it can be concluded that citing sources is an essential part of academic writing, which affects the quality of the entire paper and reinforces its credibility. Students need to master this skill since it will allow them to quote the ideas of other people correctly and avoid accusations of plagiarism. Moreover, referencing the existing body of knowledge shows that the learner has carried out research on the topic and is well-informed when making certain statements or proposing new hypotheses for validation.

Please upgrade your Browser

Unfortunately, your browser is too old to work on this site.